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How many of these unique travel vehicles have you traveled in? I say these are unique because of the convenience they offer compared to other vehicles in that same situation, especially in India. You may have arrived in your own vehicle to a location but to visit the local sights the local transport modes are more suitable. You may find these in some parts of Asia, but a couple of them are unique to India. Also Read - Auto Rickshaw in Telangana Carries 24 Passengers, Cops Ask Them to Pose For Pic - Watch Viral Video
1. Hand carts or human pulled rickshaws
These are common in the metropolitan city of India, Kolkata! For those pulling the rickshaws, it is a matter of bread and butter. The very survival of these people depends on the earnings they make from travellers who take these rides. Also Read - Ropeways, cable cars future of Indian transport: Nitin Gadkari
If you are in Kolkata, forget driving your vehicle. Chances are you will reach your destination many hours late. I availed the services of a hand-pulled rickshaw to visit Thakurbari, a distance of 850m from Girish Park Metro station. I was ridden with guilt by the end of the ride and paid him more than what he asked. “Your first ride didi?” he asked and took the money with a smile and gratitude.
The rickshaws have good seats and a shade that can be pulled over your head. The speed is like your jogging speed. The advantage is he knows the shortest way to your destination and is skillful in crossing busy roads. Once in a while, you will hear him shouting at the passersby to make way for the rickshaw and you may get glances from the passersby.
2. Horse Carts
I travelled in one of these in Murshidabad, West Bengal. Horse carts are ideal to get around in towns dotted with several heritage sites, temples or monuments. The fare isn’t much. They do quote high as much of their earning goes to care of the horse. But then, it is cheap compared to other motorized transport vehicles. They can ferry 4 to 6 people at a time and have a shade to protect from the sun but not from rain. These horse carts enable a very leisurely way of touring the place. The ones I have seen in Europe are posher.
Our horse cart driver took us through several streets of old Murshidabad town. He seemed quite knowledgeable too about the history of the place. He told us several stories and legends about the monuments. One was about a dacoit appointed as revenue collector by the nawab then. Human sacrifices took place in the phansi ghar and blood flowed through the sewers of his palace. Spine chilling indeed! The horse cart driver was kind enough to let my daughter hold the reins of the horse, she was thrilled beyond words. It was a novelty for my city-bred daughters.
I wish the government did something about these folks, employ them as tourist guides cum drivers, which will promote healthy tourism too.
3. Cycle Rickshaw
This one is popular in Kolkata and will continue to remain popular till the traffic congestion eases there. The cycle rickshaw peddlers are usually the illiterate lot and this becomes an easy means of earning bread. Alight any metro station in Kolkata and you will be greeted with the sight of long rows of colorful cycle rickshaws. You will find cycle rickshaws in other states of India too.
I found myself choosing the rickshaws for their myriad colors and designs rather than the fare quoted. Sitting in one of them is an experience by itself. There is nothing to hold in front of you, I often got the feeling of falling forward but trust me nothing of that sort happens. Two medium built people can easily fit into the seat. Don’t expect him to follow traffic rules, he may suddenly turn right and you will find yourself gripping the side metal bars of the canopy tightly.
4. Auto Rickshaw
This is the most popular and easily available means of local transport in all states of India. Your travel in India is incomplete if you have not traveled in one of these! The three-wheeled vehicles are a boon when compared with taxis. They are less expensive, saves time in reaching places and you get dropped at the gates of your destination. Ideally, three passengers can fit into an auto but with shared hire concept prevailing in some cities, they tend to take in more with one seated by the driver’s side.
They are reputed to take you to your destination in time and even through the worst traffic jam. Their knowledge of lanes and by-lanes keeps them ahead of others. There are several factors one has to keep in mind before hiring an auto. Check for a functioning meter to avoid getting fleeced, prefer pre-paid autos; women should keep somebody informed about the details of the auto they hire, see that you are completely inside the auto with no body part of yours dangling outside and last but not the least keep loose change in hand, else you will hear ‘no change ma’am/sir’ and you will not be given balance amount.
You will find them in coastal regions and across the big rivers of India. Ferries are bigger than boats but not as big as ships. They are cheap means of transport and can ferry your vehicle too. The biggest advantage is one can avoid the long circuitous road. You may have to travel standing, but the sceneries around can keep you engaged.
One can avail cheap ferry services in backwaters of Kerala too. The advantage is they save time, fuel and money.
This is an interesting mode of transport across small rivers. It has the shape of a slightly deep saucer and is made of woven grasses, reeds, bamboo and the inside coated with resin or tar or layered with a plastic sheet. Dimensions of coracles are about 2.6m in diametre and can ferry 8 to 10 people.
At Hampi I have seen a motorcycle being ferried in this. Tourists staying on the north side of Tungabhadra River avail these coracle services to get to the south side, where the Hampi ruins are. While this is a vital mode of transport for locals, tourists take joy rides in coracles in places like Hogenakal waterfalls and Tungabhadra River in Hampi. Just a word of caution, don’t get too excited inside the coracle or you might cause it to tumble over. Heed to weather forecasts and avoid coracle rides in rough weather.
Wherever you tour in India you will need some mode of transport to access the difficult areas. Avail these local modes and contribute to sustainable tourism. You will also be doing a good deed by supporting the earnings of the local people!